What is Cardiac Asthma?

Cardiac Asthma is a pathological condition pertaining to the heart and should not be correlated with what we call as True Asthma. Cardiac Asthma results due to left heart failure and causes coughing and wheezing. If the wheezing cough gets extremely severe then this calls for an emergent medical evaluation and treatment. Heart failure results in build up of fluid around the lungs and around the airways which results in coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath, all of these symptoms are similar to that of a True Asthma but a True Asthma is a condition in which there is a inflammation of the airways which results in their getting narrowed causing the symptoms. True Asthma never results in any sort of fluid buildup in and around the lungs or the airways hence Cardiac Asthma and True Asthma are two distinctly different medical conditions.

It is important that a true distinction between what is Cardiac Asthma and what is True Asthma be made since the approach to treatment is entirely different for the two conditions. Treatments rendered for heart failure not only improves the symptoms of heart failure but also are helpful in improving symptoms of Cardiac Asthma. In case if Cardiac Asthma is misdiagnosed as True Asthma and treatments are rendered accordingly then it may have adverse affects on Cardiac Asthma.

Cardiac Asthma is mostly seen in the elderly population but can be seen in people of all ages, especially who already have a cardiac condition. People with heart conditions like leaky valves or those people who have gaps in between heart chambers are more predisposed to getting Cardiac Asthma.

What is Cardiac Asthma?

What Causes Cardiac Asthma?

The root cause of Cardiac Asthma is mechanical heart failure, which is a potentially serious condition if not treated appropriately at the right time. The ability of the heart to pump in blood to various parts of the body is significantly reduced due to the fluid build up in the lungs which narrow the airways further resulting in symptoms. Some of the causes of mechanical heart failure resulting in Cardiac Asthma are:

Heart Valves: A faulty heart valve results in development of pulmonary edema which in turn causes Cardiac Asthma. The development of pulmonary edema can be caused due to various reasons. Mitral stenosis which is a condition in which there is narrowing of the mitral valve results in reduced blood flow to the left ventricle resulting in backflow of the blood to the pulmonary veins. This situation arises mostly in people who have rheumatic heart disease. Pulmonary edema can also be caused due to aortic stenosis in which the aorta gets narrowed and results in reduced blood flow from ventricle resulting in backflow of the blood causing pulmonary edema. Aortic regurgitation is yet another condition which can result in pulmonary edema with resultant Cardiac Asthma.

Cardiac Muscle Dysfunction: This is yet another cause for pulmonary edema with resultant Cardiac Asthma, the most common of which is systolic dysfunction. Some of the conditions which can cause systolic dysfunction are coronary artery disease and increased pulmonary venous pressure which leads to a backflow of blood into the pulmonary veins causing a buildup of blood with resultant pulmonary edema causing Cardiac Asthma.

Some of the other causes of Cardiac Asthma are renal artery narrowing causing pulmonary edema which in turn leads to development of Cardiac Asthma.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Cardiac Asthma?

The symptoms of Cardiac Asthma are variable and are different from individual to individual but usually come to the fore when an individual is sleeping or while doing any sort of activity. These symptoms tend to worsen over time as the disease condition progresses and tend to interfere with sleep. Some of the main symptoms of Cardiac Asthma are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Tachycardia
  • Swelling of the ankles
  • Hypertension
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid shallow breathing
  • Feeling of uneasiness.

Some people with Cardiac Asthma may wake up soon after going to sleep with severe shortness of breath and may need to sit upright to get back their breath. These are clear signs that the individual needs immediate medical attention.

How is Cardiac Asthma Treated?

It is essential that Cardiac Asthma be treated at the right time to prevent any complications but before than that it is extremely vital to diagnose the condition as the symptoms presented by Cardiac Asthma are quite similar to other unrelated medical conditions like True Asthma, COPD, or pneumonia. Once the condition is identified then treatment is first aimed at improving the function of the heart so that the heart is able to pump blood normally.

Surgery may be recommended in some cases to treat certain heart conditions to include a gap between the chambers of the heart.

The next step towards treatment is control of edema. Heart failure is treated with medications including diuretics so that any excess fluid in the lungs or the ankles can be eliminated from the body. Medications are also given to improve the functioning of the heart and the ability of the heart to pump blood effectively and normally to all the parts of the body. Once heart failure is controlled adequately then the other symptoms of Cardiac Asthma to include wheezing cough also gets improved. The treatment for Cardiac Asthma includes a combined approach using bronchodilators, supplementary oxygen, and also the treatment of the heart failure. Steroids are given to people who do not successfully respond to the initial treatment given for Cardiac Asthma.

What are the Risk Factors for Cardiac Asthma?

Cardiac Asthma usually occurs in the elderly population where the function of the heart and lungs are decreased especially if they have an underlying cardiac condition. People with congenital heart diseases are also at risk for developing Cardiac Asthma. People with hypertension and other diseases of the valves of the heart are also prone to develop Cardiac Asthma.

In summary, Cardiac Asthma is a condition which is totally different from True Asthma and hence a clear distinction needs to be established between the two before treatment is started. Cardiac Asthma is a condition which requires aggressive treatment in a coordinated manner. Hence if you suspect you have any of the symptoms or have a family history of Cardiac Asthma then it is better to get yourself checked for it so that early and aggressive treatment can be started so as to prevent you from any serious complications of Cardiac Asthma.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: September 13, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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